Counterfact magazine brings us a solo game.
Fast playing, lean game system. That will bedevil you. As a solo game for me it passes the “Not playing for the AI ” test handsomely.
Despite some awkward font choices for counters and a mildly disappointing map the game is thematic enough to be engaging.
One core concept is not explained in the rules that I could find – “no action” is referred to when DAESH units conduct an action. Some don’t ‘count’ and as such it appears that the Allies get another free action. Versus what I and the folks watching the live stream concluded was another action for DAESH !
Other than that rules are pretty clear if not a bit awkwardly laid out [ sequence of play is spread across three rule cases.]
The game starts to shine as the Allies must make choices about what actions to take – move, recon, strikes, SOF snatch and grabs etc. This allows you to rescue Hostages and downed pilots or capture kill enemy Leaders. This is the key to good game. Hard choices. Especially for a solo game. Too often we end up being the die roller for the system so it can play. Not here thankfully.
However as your armies progress into reclaim cities from the Islamic enemy your combat results can spawn Hostages, or downed pilots. Hence the combat support is often more useful re rolling to obtain a LOWER number on the CRT to prevent these spawns. As each hostage at turn end faces a 50% chance of death which accrues VPs for the AI. Save those hostages or capture cities? You are on a tight clock, and both count for victory points. DAESH only need 15 to win.
AI actions involve pipeline disruption, resort attacks, and other awkward things. Even a 1 time attack on the Vatican.
So the narrative over the first few turns evolved like this:
Moments after the UN security resolution was passed the green light was given to Task Force Deverish in Gabes. The Stryker unit 1/3 and 3/3 and advance recon SOF forces quickly took Sabratha. In a Mc Arthur esque maneuver the EU forces land in Benghazi incurring heavy losses but clearing the city and gather valuable intel. Leadership cells were identified by both forces as well as Hostage media crews in Ghant and Sarir. The Islamist responded with a daring aerial raid on the Vatican that was thwarted by on the ground intel.
3 successful snatch and grab missions took out leadership forces who under subsequent enhanced interrogation revealed additional hostage locations. Stretched thin the SOF teams could not make it to them in time, but kept ransom talks alive.
Drones strikes pin pointed leadership for execution with little collateral damage.
In the following phase of the mission Tripoli falls, a Mediterranean beach resort attack is foiled but the Laptis Magna ruins are defiled by ISIS thugs. Helo units stage deep int Libya and secure Waw al Kabir and Tazirbu. The media frenzy over this religious war and the spike in refugees makes TV and reporter crews easy targets. cities across the country take hostages. US forces forgo subtlety and force preservation and begin landing more troops and leveling cities. Escalation begets escalation. The more success they have the more Pilot executions and Hostages kills are streamed live!
How will this war end?